Oscar-Nominated Short Films: Animated
This star Western comes from some animators from Pixar, known for attacking mature themes through “kiddie movie” frames. Here they break away from familiar turf for a truly adult sensibility in a tale of an aged sheriff who revisits the memories of a long-ago tragedy. Made with a slightly hazy quality, it’s astonishing to see next-gen CG animation used with cartoon-y characters in the service of such a sad, mournful tale. Here’s hoping a feature-length film can employ this style.
This lovely tale of music and regret shows a young woman who discovers an old heap of a car in the junkyard that used to belong to her dad. An old mixtape in a recorder on the front seat is filled with his songs from their days together as traveling troubadours while she was a little girl, then charts the path forward with the years as the automobile and the music becomes her own. A simple tale about appreciating the people who raised you, whom we are all bound to push away at some point.
An inventive hand-drawn parable about a girl born with a unique disability: Her left eye can only see the past, while her right eye can only see the future. So when she looks at an adult speaking to her, she sees them as a toddler and elderly, respectively. “In her eyes, the present did not exist,” according to the narrator. Based on a short story with a bold drawing style resembling ancient pictograms.
The official entry from Pixar is a cute bit of enjoyable fluff about a young sandpiper bird dashing in and out of the waves of a beach. The photo-realistic animation is just amazing, with only a small bit of stylization to let us know we’re watching a “cartoon.” Not terribly ambitious story-wise, it’s still an invigorating little aperitif of a film.
Pear Cider and Cigarettes
Writer-director Robert Valley’s triumphant tale of tragedy, “Pear Cider and Cigarettes” is a semiautobiographical reminiscence about his 25-year friendship with a self-destructive fellow named Techno Stypes. Using a style reminiscent of motion comics, it’s got a film noir look and feel, right down to the laconic narration. Techno starts off as a superhuman kid, the one everyone looks up to because of his total lack of fear. Then things slowly devolve until he’s eventually a pitiful hipster trapped in a military hospital in China because he’s too much of a drunk to get on the list for a liver transplant in his native Canada. “It always seemed like he could just pull it off,” Valley says of his friend. Moody, contemplative and brilliant, “Pear Cider” is the clear standout amongst these short films.